Friday, October 19, 2012
Final Word: AFC North
By Jamison Hensley
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 7:
Statistically better without Lewis: The Ravens have confidence that they can win without Ray Lewis because they've done it before. Since 2006, Baltimore is 7-1 in games that Lewis has missed because of injury. Lewis probably is done for the season with a triceps injury, and there's no question that the Ravens lose tremendous leadership. But the numbers say the Ravens are a better defense without him. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Ravens have allowed fewer yards per play over the past five seasons with Lewis off the field (4.3) than on it (4.9). That also goes for touchdowns allowed with Lewis off the field (one in 59.2 plays) compared to when he's on it (one in every 40.5 plays). This trend will be tested against a Texans offense that ranks fifth in the NFL in scoring (28.8 points).
The Ravens will miss the leadership of Ray Lewis, but stats show they allow less yards per play when he's not on the field.
Another streak to break for Browns: Cleveland got one streak off its back when it ended an 11-game skid last Sunday. Now, the Browns are looking for their first back-to-back victories since Weeks 2 and 3 of the 2011 season. But there's a bigger streak on the line Sunday. The Browns have lost 10 straight road games, which is one shy of the franchise record (1974-76). This road losing streak is tied with the Colts for the longest active one in the NFL. The Browns' average margin of defeat is 8.6 points, so it's not as though they've been blown out away from home. The last time the Browns won on the road was Sept. 18, 2011, at Indianapolis, where they play this Sunday.
Green enjoys seeing black and gold: Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green has had great success against the Steelers, producing seven catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns in essentially five quarters of action. In the first meeting, Green strained his knee on a 36-yard touchdown in the first quarter and sat out most of the rest of the game. The Steelers aren't the only team having trouble containing Green, who leads the NFL with 628 yards receiving. According to ESPN Stats & Information, those receiving yards are the second most by a Bengals player through six games (Chad Johnson had 680 in 2007). Green also has caught a touchdown in five straight games, which ties the longest streak for a wide receiver in the NFL since the start of the 2011 season.
Failing in the clutch: The Steelers aren't just losing. They're giving away games. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Steelers have held fourth-quarter leads in all three of their losses this season. That's the most blown fourth-quarter leads in the NFL. Closing out games was never a problem like this for Pittsburgh. From 2010-11, the Steelers blew only two fourth-quarter leads. All three of these collapses have come on the road. Pittsburgh has allowed at least 26 points in three straight road games, its longest such streak since allowing at least 26 points in three straight road games from 2001-02.
Ravens like to mess with Texas: There are two teams that the Ravens have never lost to in the NFL: the Cowboys and the Texans. Baltimore is 10-0 against those two Texas teams. The Ravens beat Dallas 31-29 last Sunday and head to face Houston this Sunday. The last time the Ravens lost to a team from Texas was the 1996 season finale, when they fell to the Houston Oilers. If the Ravens beat the Texans, they would improve to 6-1, which would be the best start in team history. Houston is trying to avoid becoming the 10th team since the merger to lose two straight games after starting 5-0.